For English Comp I was tasked with writing about a controversial issue.
Apr 28 2013
Amnesty Would Be Amicable In America
Immigration is no foreign concept to the United States of America. Aside from it’s founding at the hands of various European immigrants, the USA has experienced nearly constant immigration throughout it’s entire existence as an established country. To delve further into the topic, amnesty itself is not a new concept in America either; in 1986 Ronald Reagan provided amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants (Powers). However, the event was certainly not without controversy and opposition, so it is no surprise that this pattern repeats as the topic of amnesty is brought up again. Amnesty is an issue drenched and weighed down by popular and racially-stereotyped misconceptions involving the illegal immigrants currently present and the future of illegal immigration, but when this misinformation is corrected the logical flaws of not granting amnesty are made clear.
Perhaps the most prevalent misconception about illegal immigrants currently in the country is that they are hurting the job market in one way or another. However, as Solana-Garcia points out, “Foreign workers who lack legal status take jobs that native-born workers are not willing to take” (Solana-Garcia 396). Even considering the inevitable competition illegal immigrants would provide for these typically undesirable jobs, the “economic impacts are difficult to assess empirically” (Ayers 595). With the studies suggesting these jobs are undesirable to legal workers and the exact impact of illegal workers affects on the economy, it is hardly valid to claim that illegal immigrants are harming the job market. In fact, there is more evidence suggesting that amnesty would be positively helpful towards the economy: Alan Greenspan points out “70% of immigrants arrive in prime working age…and will contribute $500 billion toward our social security system over the next 20 years” (Top Ten). This figure only involves current legal immigrants – amnesty would likely skyrocket this prediction since it would “increase the tax base” (Epstein 290).
The other popular misconception about illegal immigrants is that they contribute harshly to crime in America. Epstein argues that the social costs of illegal immigrants would only increase the longer they are denied amnesty since living in such sub-par conditions would inevitably increase the crime rates among them; Epstein suggests that there will be “a critical mass at which point it becomes beneficial to legalize rather than continue bearing this additional cost” (Epstein 290). However, as Powers brings up, crime isn’t limited to illegal immigrants, and “Americans are more than able to commit horrible crimes all on their own” (Powers). Powers points out that “During the 1990s, despite a steady stream of illegal immigrants, the U.S. crime rate plunged” (Powers). With such facts contrary to the claim, why do these misconceptions reign so strongly?
These fallacies most likely find such support in old-fashioned racism. Ayers compares the issue to “Anglo…attitudes toward African Americans,” and in his research found that “Anglo respondents who expressed aversion to Latinos consistently applied racial dispositions to immigration allowance policies” (Ayers 607). This is entirely relevant because of the “estimated 33 million U.S. Residents [that] are foreign” “most…share Latino minority status” (Ayers 593-594). While it would certainly be foolish to suggest that anyone who doesn’t agree with amnesty is a racist, it should be considered that many of their reasons for feeling so may have originated from false claims by racists. It is otherwise difficult to explain the gap between statistics and opinions.
For example, there is a popular notion that illegal immigration would only increase with amnesty. However, Goodale notes that “Census data released at the end of 2012 [shows] a slowing of the immigration tide” (Goodale). In fact, the notion that amnesty would increase illegal immigration is so absurd that the opposite proves true – to not grant amnesty would likely increase illegal immigration and worsen any costs it may have on society; Epstein states that “the existence of a very large illegal base may signal the natives that illegality is acceptable and cause them to not pay taxes…since their illegal neighbors do not” (Epstein 290). Of course, such logical thinking is hard to come by when discussing this issue because most individuals believe in false notions. As it turns out, the future of illegal immigration is incredibly positive with amnesty, but the misinformation fed to the masses (likely from racists) prevents the truth from shining. Just as equally disappointing as this muddled truth is the reality being hidden behind it.
For how often it is claimed illegal immigrants are harming the job force and economy, it is not noted often enough just how much money is spent on attempting to keep illegal immigrants out, yet it is ineffective. As Epstein puts it, “Western countries tend to spend significant resources towards limiting the number…of immigrants they allow into their countries. These limits are upheld via both border controls…and via internal enforcement,” but “Despite these efforts, however, many illegal immigrants tend to find a way to slip through cracks in the system” (Epstein 286). At what point do the poor results make the spending unjustified? If undefinable speculated costs are enough to make an argument against amnesty, why are well defined and wasted expenditures acceptable? Epstein comments, “a large illegal immigrant presence may be a sign of impotence on the part of a government – which may be harmful both domestically and internationally” (Epstein 290). With this in mind, refusing amnesty and continuing the fruitless efforts to prevent illegal immigration not only costs the nation “significant resources” but create domestic and international issues – meanwhile, granting amnesty would result mainly in positive economic gains (Epstein 286). The simple fact of the matter is the logic sides with amnesty, and it is flawed to suggest not granting amnesty.
The argument isn’t just a matter of logic though. If enemies of amnesty are so compelled to draw upon feelings of frustration and hate, then it is worth pointing out the other side of this spectrum; Many children of illegal immigrants, born outside of America, grow up in the country and live normal American lives, yet are ultimately designated as outcasts for reasons outside their control (Bennion). What kind of vengeful state of mind is required to believe that even these particular undocumented Americans don’t deserve the same rights and opportunities as anyone else? The idea that a majority of illegal immigrants are nothing but tax-evading, gang affiliated, job-stealing criminals is quite simply ignorant and hateful. As with most of history’s most intolerable events, racism and misconceptions fuel each other’s fires in this argument. Together they relentlessly attempt to burn down the bridge that is amnesty. Unfortunately for those who feed the flames, those who would benefit from the bridge have lived without and can continue to do so. The end result is that the nation continues to throw it’s wealth into a fire that only serves to prevent a group of people relief while failing to discourage them any further. From this perspective, it is obvious that there must be growth beyond these misunderstandings and negative-harbored-emotions regarding the illegal immigrants already here and the future of illegal immigration – only then will the logical flaws of not granting amnesty be made clear.
Ayers, John, et al. “Is Immigration A Racial Issue?” Social Science Quarterly. 90.3 (2009): 593-610. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.
Bennion, David. “Children of Illegal Aliens Should Go to College and Gain Legal Status.” What Rights Should Illegal Immigrants Have? Ed. Noël Merino. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2010. At Issue. Rpt. from “Undocumented Youths Organize to Pass DREAM Act.” Legal Intelligencer 31 Aug. 2009. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.
Epstein, Gil, and Avi Weiss. “The why, when, and how of immigration amnesties.” Journal of Population Economics. 24.1 (2011): 285-316. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.
Goodale, Gloria. “Immigration reform: Will ‘amnesty’ produce more illegal immigration?.”Christian Science Monitor 28 Jan. 2013: N.PAG. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.
Powers, Kristen. “Immigrants become target for all of society’s ills”, USA Today, 29 Aug. 2007. Web. 28 Apr. 2013
Solano-García, Ángel. “Legal Or Illegal? Preferences On Immigration.” International Journal Of
Social Welfare 18.4 (2009): 395-406. Web. 28 Apr. 2013.
“Top Ten Immigration Myths and Facts.” Immigration and Multiculturalism: Essential Primary
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